Elgin area braces for possible flooding
By Mike Danahey email@example.com @DanaheyECN February 18, 2014 12:14PM
The amount of snow cover and the lack of open water as indicated in this photo of the Fox River in Carpentersville taken Monday have officials worried about possible flooding if it rains late Wednesday and Thursday. | Mike Danahey/Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2014 11:43AM
ELGIN — If you think Monday’s weather was bad, worse could be in store Wednesday and Thursday. And because of that, Elgin public works crews are seeking residents’ help with an important task.
“If you have a catch basin in front of your house, you should clear the snow around it,” Water Director Kyla Jacobsen said.
What makes this important is that freezing rain and rain are in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.
“Wednesday night, freezing rain could move into the area that lasts until Thursday morning,” Northern Illinois University staff meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste said.
“We’ll go above freezing Thursday afternoon, and that should change things back to rain with highs near 40. After that, another system toward the weekend could produce some snow.”
Part of what makes this dangerous, Sebenste said, is that just a tenth of an inch of ice on the roads can be worse than 6 inches of snow, simply because getting good traction is nearly impossible when driving on the ice.
And for municipalities, because the ground is frozen and covered in a big layer of snow — and bodies of water are substantially frozen, too — “the water has nowhere to go. We have over 4 feet of frost in the ground, so the ground will not absorb any rain,” Jacobsen said.
“Flooding due to rains is going to be priority one, although they are saying some freezing rain may proceed the actual rain,” Jacobsen added. “So it’s likely that the staff may be out on salt duty before the flooding actually starts.”
Neighborhoods most prone to such problems are those around creeks, Jacobsen said. In Elgin, they include the ones on the west side near Tyler Creek in the Royal Boulevard area and on the east side close to Poplar Creek, including along Kirk and Kramer streets and around Elgin High School.
Jacobsen said she thinks that clearing the catch basins is a community problem.
“I think that it would help if homeowners would clear the catch basins in front of their homes,” she said. “The city has nearly 6,000 catch basins; and since snow has been the No. 1 issue for the sewer crews, they haven’t had the luxury of time to go out and clear around all the catch basins.”
This week, the Kane County Office of Emergency Management issued a release echoing Jacobsen’s concerns and reminding residents to take precautions to help protect homes from flooding caused by the fifth snowiest northern Illinois winter on record.
Tips include clearing street drains of snow, ice and debris. People who discover that a sewer grate that has been removed should contact their public works department immediately.
The OEM also advises residents to move snow from around their homes to provide a clear drainage path away from the building.
Another tip is to make sure one’s sump pump is working properly and to test the backup batteries if the sump pump is so equipped.
“Check to make sure your sump pump discharge pipe outside your home is not frozen, clogged or blocked by snow,” the OEM release states. “(And) repair leaks or cracked basement walls and floors using waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.”